Maine shrimp fishery faces potential permanent closure

Northern shrimp
Northern shrimp(WMTW)
Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 11:03 AM EDT
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PORTLAND, Maine (WMTW) - Regulators are considering a permanent closure of the northern shrimp fishery off the coast of Maine and New Hampshire.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Northern Shrimp Section met in Portland last week to discuss several issues related to the northern shrimp.

There has not been a northern shrimp fishing season in the Gulf of Maine since 2013. A moratorium was placed on the fishery because the shrimp population collapsed.

In 2013, Maine fishermen caught 602,980 pounds of shrimp for a value of $1,082,342. In 2012, Maine’s shrimp catch was 4,910,955 pounds with a value of $4,688,796 and in 2011 the catch was 10,191,149 pounds worth $7,671,751.

During the meeting, section members discussed implementing a permanent moratorium and developing a science-based trigger for reopening the fishery. Several members voiced their support for a permanent moratorium. Right now, they need to revisit the idea every year.

Many experts have questioned for years if the commercial fishery would ever reopen. There have been new talks this year about how to possibly allow for a very limited recreational shrimp season.

The Gulf of Maine is at the very southern end of the habitat for northern shrimp and the warming waters are having a big impact.

The 2021 summer survey of the northern shrimp population found that the indices of abundance, biomass and recruitment were the lowest they have been since 1984 and spawning stock biomass was the second lowest since 1984. The survey found that environmental conditions continue to be unfavorable for northern shrimp.

The report issued with the 2021 summer survey concluded that there was a less than 1% chance that the spawning stock biomass levels would be greater in 2026 than they were in 2021, even with zero fishing.

Given the continued poor condition of the resource, the extremely low likelihood of being able to fish sustainably, and the value of maximizing spawning potential to rebuild the stock if environmental conditions improve, the Northern Shrimp Technical Committee (NSTC) does not see any biological justification for harvest,” the 2021 report said.

The Northern Shrimp Section also discussed last week the possibility of the Commission relinquishing management authority of northern shrimp. They decided to work more with NOAA Fisheries before making a decision.

They also discussed potentially stopping the summer survey. Dr, Katie Drew, the lead stock assessment scientist for northern shrimp, said, while it would not be as effective, other sources can provide data to make projections about general population trends.